Before Less Than Jake blasted into “Doug Hastings” from 1996’s Losing Streak, bass/singer/Pez enthusiast Roger Lima proudly proclaimed, “Your parents may have enjoyed this song when you were conceived.” That’s what I love about these guys—they’ve been a band for over 20 years and that they don’t feel like a nostalgia act. Every show is a new, crazy party. They continue releasing new material (like the new 7″ American Idle on Fat Wreck Chords) and bringing good vibes to town. I’ve gone to many of their shows over the years—and I leave each show as giddy as when I was 14.
Seeing a LTJ show is like seeing Gwar, sort of, but with less sticky fluids. Confetti, toilet paper on a leaf blower, and balloons are perfectly-timed projectile accents to explosive sing-along choruses and circle-pit sessions. They break down that fourth wall, the space between acknowledging the fans are out there and not, by inviting them onstage for dance competitions. As the band got into 2006’s “Everything is Overrated,” three guys and three girls broke out into wild routines in hopes of being named with the honorable superlative “Best Skank.” One guy was asked to take his shirt off and keep things going for a second song. It was a party.
The oddities continued as singer/guitarist Chris DeMakes hammed it up, informing the the room he is trying to take over Drew Carey’s The Price Is Right throne this summer, and asked for the crowd’s votes. The television hype served as a nice segue to them announcing a “big check” deal for a 30-second commercial jingle they recorded for the cereal and household goods corporate titan, General Mills. Amazingly, the band not only played it twice in a row (and another at the very end of their set), but it actually went over quite well.
RBF kicked it off with “Trendy” from their 1996 breakout album, Turn the Radio Off. The yesteryear vibe wasn’t lost on lead man Aaron Barrett, who peacocked shamelessly during several songs and acknowledged a pop-culture self-awareness by proclaiming “hashtag throwbackthursday!” That said, the sheer amount of checkerboard, plaid, and bright neon tones they flaunted on stage, along with their full horns section-slash-ska orchestra, gave them the veneer of coming off the most ska of all the bands igniting the House of Blues that night.
So whether someone made a baby to these bands, or was a baby when these bands rode the ska wave dominating the pop culture landscape 20 years ago … these bands were likely an inspiration for both breeds of fan, which made it out in droves for the night. Proving that even after a week of getting slammed by snow, the forces of ska and punk can still slam hard enough to keep fans coming back year after year.